Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Just Fun Stuff

I like to keep this blog light. And encouraging. And stuff. While still talking about the exciting/difficult/unusual things that go on. Of course, much of this has a spiritual perspective, seeing as the reason I come to Guyana is to preach and help the congregation. Every now and then though, you'll have a stretch of time where there's not a whole lot of stuff that's necessarily exciting or encouraging. Not that this is a bad thing, because that could mean I've been doing nothing but having fun.

And that's precisely what the last week has been for me.

For example, on Monday I went out to the coast in order to have access to really good internet and to do some light shopping for things. This also allowed me to do things which I get to do very very rarely in Orealla, such as watch YouTube, listen to internet radio, and basically use internet that is fast and doesn't cost me money based off how much I use. I spent the day at the home of a brother named Satish, who has many times opened up his family's home to need-greaters. Even now there's two sisters staying with his family, one from Trinidad and one from Oregon USA. Turns out I didn't see a whole lot of them since they were busy helping a missionary couple move. But still got to spend a small amount of time with them, and also do some useful things with my time. Like download the December JW Broadcast (which I haven't watched yet since I promised a brother I wouldn't see it until he was able to watch it with me. Stay tuned for that!) and also grab our magazine shipment for December.

Yeah, we don't get our magazines until halfway through the month we use them. Alas. You learn to adapt.

After I got back, there was another interesting development. I walked next door to a shop to get stuff for dinner that day when I noticed this thing in a nearby building which is still under construction...

Man, people will NOT stand still when you take photos...


 I naturally raced back home immediately to alert Kojo and Charlie about its existence. At which point we hogged the table all day, and into the night as well.....

SOME of us seemed to enjoy it a little too much...

There was also a small audience watching in hysterics. We were that bad...

Of course, THEY wouldn't sit still for the camera either!!

Seeing as you can only have two people playing at a time (since they only had two paddles) sometimes we had to find other ways to amuse ourselves while awaiting our next turn. Here was one of my preferred options.
This is five-year old Robert Hendricks (who studies with Kojo) teaching me a card game called "Tinks". He's got a career as a hustler should he so decide. Lulled me in with a seemingly simple game, then proceeded to absolutely crush me for five rounds.

So that's been what's happening lately. It's very nice knowing we have an easy distraction waiting whenever we so decide.

And since so many people have been asking lately, here's a picture of a monkey!!


Thursday, December 4, 2014

Happy Interrogations with.... Charlie Brohard

Today we'll be beginning a new series on this blog that we're calling “Happy Interrogations”, where we'll be conducting an interview with a need-greater that is nearby so I don't have to walk very far to get to them.

Our first vict... uh, interviewee will be one Charles Brohard who originates from Jackson, Ohio, USA. He currently serves as a regular pioneer and minsterial servant, and for the last several weeks has been serving as a need-greater in the Orealla congregation in Guyana.

Charlie Brohard, mocking the way I sit.

So please buckle in and enjoy as we begin our interrogation.

How old are you now?

How old were you when you got baptized?
13. That feels so long ago now. But it was a MASSIVE protection for me during my teen years, as most of my friends in the congregation that I grew up with either dissociated themselves from the truth or were disfellowshipped. But I had already set my vow and refused to be caught up in it and made new friends within God's organization instead.

How long have you been pioneering?
3 ½ years. During my first year or so of pioneering, the only other pioneers in my home congregation were 2 sisters who also were grandmothers (obviously a bit older than me). Due to my schedule not always fitting up with these other ones, I would spend at least one long day in service each week without any support, besides Jehovah and holy spirit. It really helped me put my trust in him. I think the youngest person I've ever had the privilege of being a fellow pioneer in the same congregation was in her mid 30s. However, it's put me in in contact and built up friendships with ones I probably would have never even approached before. I learned so much from these dear ones: not just in the ministry, but in life and in my service to Jehovah in general. I wouldn't trade these experiences for anything else in the world.

How do you support your pioneering?
I work as a physical therapist assistant at multiple nursing homes covering for when other people call off, and for holidays. I wind up driving all over the state of Ohio. Even though it's not a set schedule, it always averages out to part time, so I can go a solid week of work and then three weeks with no work. Before doing this work, I worked as a Biology, Calculus and Chemistry tutor during the evenings.

How did you become interested in serving as a need-greater?
I've always been interested in expanding my ministry in some aspect. However, due to some health difficulties, I was extremely concerned with how I could serve. This seemed to be an avenue that I could pace entirely on my own accord, as compared to say, Bethel service. This desire, combined with yearbook and Watchtower experiences of other need-greaters, put a burning desire in my heart to do more and take the plunge.

Biggest challenge so far?
It's the aforementioned health difficulties. I have exercise induced asthma, which makes breathing very difficult on various occasions. I also have several severe food allergies. Even back home in the United States where I felt comfortable with the food, it's been an extreme challenge to find food that won't kill me. Taking that issue to another country where I'm NOT comfortable with the food already has been even scarier. At times I've felt as if my inhaler, Epipens and Jehovah have been my only companions that have stuck with me. I also have a heart valve that doesn't work but stays open at all times, raising my blood pressure, heart rate, etc. The medicine I have to take for this also makes me run to the restroom often and makes me much more tired than I used to be. I become fatigued easier. All three issues together made me uncomfortable with the very idea of even leaving my home congregation, but I've been very blessed so far in doing so.

Wow. So has been reaching out in this way been worth it?
Absolutely, in every regard! I had read and heard about that amount of interested ones in these other territories. I felt as if it may have been played up a little bit even. But coming here has totally opened my eyes. I can start a conversation and place literature with literally EVERY person in this territory. It's difficult to describe the enjoyment from that. Not only that, but I feel like I'm doing so much more for God's organization here. No matter where you go, Jehovah's organization needs brothers to reach out and be used. But, to come to a small congregation where there isn't the help, where there aren't enough brothers to take the lead, and then actually put forth the effort in such a place is an amazing experience. I enjoyed the privilege of giving public talks before I came down, but it feels amazing when you're giving public talks almost every Sunday. You can see in the audience the appreciation for this spiritual food, and you can just feel that you are being used by Jehovah to encourage and build others up – even more so than back home. I highly recommend to the young brothers who wish to be used even more in the congregation about traveling to somewhere else that needs brothers more than where you already are. It may be close by or far away from home, but the feeling of taking on this larger role is indescribable. You may worry about being stretched too thin, but rely on Jehovah and you will be used in a wonderful way.

What advice would you give to wannabe need-greaters?
Read up-building experiences from the yearbooks, make it a matter of prayer and set a plan in action to reach your goal. You'll never reach the goal if you don't first count the costs, but also know that Jehovah will provide. Be reasonable about it. Even if it seems like a far ways off before you could leave, build up your spirituality now and your effectiveness in your ministry so that you'll be fully equipped for every good work when you do leave.

Any bizarre, random, or meaningless words you'd like to conclude with?
SHNARKBUZZLES!!! It's a word I made up writing bad poetry for the sole intent of it being bad. What, you have to find a way to amuse yourself in your downtime and engage in some form of recreation. Don't look at me like that.

So we hope that you have enjoyed this introductory segment. We plan on returning to it soon. In the meantime, any other questions you think we should ask? Feel free to post suggestions in the comments below.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Further Adventures of JW Broadcasting!

Gonna be totally honest, got no good pictures to go along with the stories this time. So here's a photo of the typical attendance at an Orealla meeting.

Unrelated pic alert!

Now then, as you may remember from the last blog entry, we've been trying to ensure everybody here gets to see both the JW Broadcasting videos that have been released. Our initial attempt was showing the videos at our Kingdom Hall, as I'd shared the photo of. Most of the congregation was able to attend and see them, but there were a few unable to make it. In addition to that, several publishers in our hall had studies and calls they wanted to share it with as well. So we copied the files onto Kojo's laptop and either took the video to the people's homes, or simply invited them to our house to watch them all.

Probably my favorite experience from this so far comes from a man named Martin. He's studies off and on with the Witnesses for years, but has never quite been able to become a Witness himself, despite now being in his 60's. Unsurprisingly, he's rather upset about this.

So a few days back Kojo invited him to our home and played the October video for him. Of course, this is the one where they interview the man who got baptized at the age of 87, and even now at 91 is serving as a regular pioneer and a minsterial servant.

After the interview finished, Martin turned to us with a huge smile and said "I'm just a teenager!"
And has not missed a meeting since.

Unrelated picture of a huge tree! And Kojo!

Another man named Frederick, of a similar age, has recently begun studying. For a while he's been viewed in a negative light by most of the village, but a few months ago he suffered a stroke and was sure he was going to die. Amazingly, he's recovered completely, and is now attempting to change his life but is still overshadowed by his past.

This man too viewed the interview of the 91 year old man, but the part that caught his attention was the man saying how his old friends couldn't believe the change. "He's a Witness, and baptized? Why if he can do it, anybody can!"

Of course following that interview is the music video of how serving Jehovah is the best life ever. Both of those put together seemed to have an impact on him. In fact, he'll be coming to our house in a few hours for a Bible study, so hopefully we'll have a chance to show him the November program as well.

So that's been a lot of the week. Tracking down each person associated with the congregation here and ensuring everyone gets a chance to see it, whether special pioneer or fresh student. Now we're just planning on how to get the December broadcast so we can do this all over again next month. It'll likely involve Charlie or I leaving the village to go to the coast where we can get more reliable internet. Takes a lot of bandwidth to download a 55-minute High-Def video.

And to conclude, I'll share another unrelated picture of two-year old Kate wearing a pair of tiny John Lennon sunglasses.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Walk To Siparuta / JW Broadcasting

Let's seen if one of our more astute readers can recognize what's happening in this photograph...

Oh wait, I gave it away in the title, didn't I? Ah well.

For those of you who may be new to this blog, allow me to explain. Orealla is a small village with a small congregation right off one of the largest rivers in Guyana. Our assigned territory is the village of Orealla which gets worked frequently. However, we also have any homes along the river, and a neighboring village called Siparuta. Unfortunately, Siparuta gets worked very rarely due to it being a three hour hike away. Through the jungle. It gets worked only when we have enough intrepid hikers to make the journey. As difficult as a three hour walk is, it's even worse when the entire path looks like this:

And so on an so forth. Then you do this again on the way back home. Naturally this is not a desirable situation to endure, but what else are you gonna do? We have rented a boat a few times before to get us to the village, but that gets very expensive very quickly.

Fortunately this time around, we had worked out a new idea. There was a boat that was going to be going from Siparuta to Orealla later in the day, so we could make the hike and then ride the boat back when we were done. Free passage too!

So therefore we set out at 6:30 in the morning so we could reach the village early enough in the day to work as much as possible. When we arrived we learned the boat was going to be leaving a bit earlier than we'd thought, so we wouldn't have enough time to cover the whole village (of 400+ plus people), but we were still able to work most of the downhill segment of Siparuta (the village is split evenly between an uphill region and a downhill region).

We were also able to talk to some interesting people and have a few good experiences. Kojo spent nearly half the time there sharing the Young People ask books with two young men in the village, showing them what the books covered, Bible principles they used, etc. We were also able to introduce the Caleb & Sophia videos to some new audiences....

 Then finally, hitching a (free!) ride home with Neil....

Another recent experience: Orealla is still very much an Amerindian village, to the point where electricity is still fairly new. There's only one radio. Cell phones were introduced only this year. Due to this, internet is out of reach for almost the entirety of the residents. While this lack of distractions can be nice at times, this does tend to leave people without the ability to easily access and the new JW Broadcasting videos. What to do about this? Simple!

Before coming back to Guyana I was able to get the October and November programs saved to my computer, so Saturday we invited the congregation to a very informal gathering where we set up a computer monitor on the stage (seen above) and showed the programs. Due to the weather, a few couldn't make it so we've been inviting them over to our house at a time they can make it, or taking a laptop to their own house and showing them then.

Of course December is approaching, and with that a new Broadcast video, so we're going to send someone out to the coast where there's better internet and have them try to get the video so we can continue this.

So that's all for now. Stay tuned for the gripping saga of my battle with a vicious man-eating Orangutan.
(Not really. I just need an exciting conclusion for this entry).

Until next time!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Well Hello Again, Orealla!

So. This has been an interesting week.

Thursday: Awoke at 5 AM (or so) to head out to JFK. We worked out it would be cheaper to drive to New York and fly out of there than to fly out of Columbus. We stopped along the way to pick up a brother named Charlie Brohard who will be staying in Guyana for five weeks.

We got to Wallkill at about 6 PM and settled in for the night.

Friday: Spent most of the day with my cousin and made the most of our time at Wallkill. Took a tour of the facility, ate lunch with the family, and picked up all the literature we could for various Guyanese congregations.

Then we eventually got on our way to the airport, with plenty of time to catch out 11:55 PM flight.

Saturday: Not entirely sure what all happened on Saturday. I didn't really sleep so much on the plane (great in-flight movie) so my memories are in general pretty foggy. We did have a good time at the Trinidad airport where we made a connecting flight. Right after landing we headed to a coffee shop inside the building. As we sat there, Charlie was going over one of his public talks, and a couple walks up to us and says "Are you guys Witnesses?". Turns out they're publishers from Trinidad who were on their way to New York for.... something. We asked their names, and they said.... something. Like I said, bad sleep, foggy memories, etc.

Later on we got through security and all and made it to our departure gate. Charlie resumes going over his talk, and a couple sitting nearby asks "Are you guys Witnesses?". THESE ones were named BJ and Fee (short for Felicia, I'm assuming). Not only do I remember their names, I even got a picture of them! So maybe that makes up for forgetting the other two? I dunno, it averages out.

Turns out they're need-greaters from Wisconsin on their way to a congregation in Guyana called Bartica (which some readers may know as the congregation that Roman goes to. Just tossin' that out there). Naturally we swapped stories about how horribly cold our families are going to be in the coming weeks. Because sitting in an airport for seven hours does that to you.

So after a good long while with them, we boarded our plane and we landed in Georgetown, Guyana at around 2 PM. Fortunately, we had hired a taxi ahead of time, so he was there and waiting to drive us straight to where we were staying, with a brother named Lourensco (pronounced Lorenzo). He stuffed us full of food. And we went to bed very very early due to the amount of flying and traveling over the previous days.

Sunday: Since we were staying in Brighton's territory, we naturally went to Brighton's meeting Sunday morning. Got to see Tom & Michelle Sanches again, along with all the others in the congregation I knew, plus a few new ones which is always nice. Most of the remaining day was spent just chilling, for lack of a better word. Lourensco's house is good for that.

Monday: According to the others in the house, I was asleep until 10, which knowing me, I have no reason to doubt. We learned the boat for Orealla wasn't leaving until 10:30 that night, so we had plenty of time to get needed shopping done. However, Lourensco had errands to run all day, so offered to pick us up the things we needed. Therefore, more chilling. At least until 8, when we left for the boat.

Tuesday: We arrived! Finally.

Came in at about 5 AM this morning and have been settling in nicely. Digging through all my stuff that I brought and all I left behind. And realized I didn't do a blog update yet. So there you go. The next should be coming soon once we get settled into a good routine and start getting studies and all.

So, uh..... there you go.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Farewell, Orealla

So, as usual, sorry about it being so long since the last update. Etc etc etc.

Okay, now that we've gotten all that out of the way, here's what's going on in a nutshell.

1. Kojo Burgan came back from the Bible School for Single Brothers in Trinidad about a week and a half ago, and is settling back in to his normal routine.

2. I'm about to depart Orealla to spend a little while on the coast until I return to Ohio to work, earn money, go to International Convention, and prepare for another (and longer) trip to Guyana.

Unfortunately, leaving means I won't be seeing this as part of my day-to-day life...

Happily though, I've been able to keep busy for the last few days, and keep my mind off the impending departure from paradise. One thing that was pretty awesome was having over a man from the village named Mitchell who is one of the only other guitar players around. We'd wanted to do something together for a while, but never had a chance to. But when news came I was leaving, he decided to set visiting us as a priority.

We spent a few hours playing each other's guitars and teaching each other various lessons we'd learned over time. This man is related to several of the ones in our congregation but has always avoided Witnesses in general, so we're considering this an important step in the right direction.

And of course due to my upcoming departure, there was a going-away party. In Guyana, these are a huge deal. It doesn't even matter if you'll only be gone a short while and then coming back, you'll get a whopper of a going away party.

See, in North Athens they're so used to me leaving all the time they all dress in orange as a symbol of my leaving...

Which I think makes much more sense than everyone throwing themselves into assembling a party for someone who'll probably be back in a few weeks.

But hey, I got cinnamon rolls out of it, so I'm not complaining.

And thus that leaves me here, Monday morning, awaiting the boat which will take me away to the coast so I can stay with Tom and Michelle Sanches for a few days until I head back to Ohio. It'll be interesting trying to ride in the boat when the weather is like this:

Maybe I should buy an umbrella.....

Sunday, May 4, 2014

'Pour Out Blessing Until There Is No More Want'

Malachi 3:10. "Test me out, please, in this respect,” Jehovah of armies has said, “whether I shall not open to YOU people the floodgates of the heavens and actually empty out upon YOU a blessing until there is no more want."

Living with the Guyanese gives you an interesting perspective on this verse. Allow me to explain...

This past weekend I had to go out to the coast to visit a bank so I could replenish my dwindling cash reserves. As simple as this sounds, it gets quite monotonous when you do it several times. Boat from Orealla to Skeldon - 7 hours. Bus from Skeldon to Rose Hall - 2 hours. Bus from Rose Hall to New Amsterdam - 1 hour. Stand in line at Scotia Bank. Get money. Then do the whole thing in reverse back to Orealla.

This time however, I didn't have to. When that group from Skeldon came to visit, they offered to take my bank card and give it to one of the elders from their congregation, who conveniently works in New Amsterdam. They would have him get my money out and then all I'd have to do is step off the boat, pick up cash, then do whatever I wanted to after that. I was pleased by this offer, and asked if there was anything I could do to express thanks.

"Could you bring us to or three pieces of cassava bread?"

"Um... okay."

So I began asking around the congregation if anyone had cassava bread that I could give to a sister in Skeldon. When I left for the boat, I had so much cassava bread that it filled up a backpack.

Of course, the insane generosity was far from finished. See, I now had around eight hours in Skeldon to kill, since I needn't go all the way to the bank. A brother who lives near the wharf offered to let me simply crash at his house. Within a few minutes I had been given cook-up rice, beans, chicken, Pepsi, roasted peanuts, Coke, two cups of coffee, and some drink I'd never heard of called Lemon Wash.

By this point, I no longer wanted anything else. And they kept giving me stuff. It eventually got to the point of saying "Please stop giving me food! I don't want anymore!"

I can't say that's the implication of the scripture (especially since the revised edition reads "nothing lacking", not "no more want"), but living with a people as incredibly generous as the Guyanese certainly gives you a unique look at that verse.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Thus Endeth the Visitors

I've been having a ridiculous amount of people coming to visit lately. This past week was no different.

There was an assortment of people from Trinidad who have been serving in the Skeldon congregation, which is the closest hall to us in Guyana (in other words, it's only seven hours away). Their time in Guyana was coming to an end, and several brothers and sisters in Skeldon suggested they should visit Orealla before leaving, so last Tuesday two of the sisters came down, accompanied by Amy Norbaum (who you may remember as being the one I ran into at the Miami airport whilst coming here: along with a deaf sister named Niasa and a few others who were born in Orealla but have moved out to Skeldon for various reasons. The two from Trinidad were only able to stay for a few days, after which they had to leave, along with Melanie who was going back to Micaiah's hall until she leaves for the States sometime this week. The other six though (Amy, Niasa, Denzel, Dylan, Alyssa, and Anne) stayed around until yesterday night.

It was neat because Niasa was able to prepare four different comments for the Watchtower study. If you've never seen it done at a meeting before, basically the deaf sister raises her hand, and the microphone goes to whoever can translate for her. I also managed to nab a picture of the notes she read her comments from.

When it finally came time for the Skeldon crew to go, there was a fair amount of hullabaloo. The sendoff lasted two days. First night, movies.

(There is a second screen connected to the laptop. We weren't all hunched around that dinky screen)

The next night was.... uhh, this. Whatever this is.

So this was the final piece of the never-ending parade of visitors we've had since I arrived. I doubt I can even remember them all.

Walter, Shawn, Joshua, Dian, Zandile, Dustin, Olivia, Melanie, Carys, Alonso, Justin, Amy, Avian, Niasa, Alyssa, Denzel, Dylan, Anne, and Tophirah. So long y'all, you'll be missed.

And those are just the ones I remember off the top of my head. However, next Monday Kojo will supposedly be returning from Bible School, so I'm not sure if that will restore things to normal, or whether life here will remain a constant mishmash of craziness.

I sure hope so!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Memorial in Orealla

The preceding few days have been chock full of eventfulness. For one, when you enter Guyana they'll only give you a three month visa, after which you have to leave the country. Strangely enough, you can come back into the country the next day and get another three month visa and they're fine with it. Due to this, most need-greaters will hop over into Suriname for a few nights for a mini-vacation, then come back for another visa. Usually this is pretty easy, but for me staying in Orealla, it presents a huge headache. Here was my dilemma:

There are only two days you can get a boat to or from Orealla, and that's Thursday/Friday and Sunday/Monday (each one is an overnight trip). The other hitch was my visa expired the day of the Memorial (Monday, April 14). I couldn't go the week before due to a huge series of circumstances and whatnot, so it had to be the weekend of the Memorial, and I couldn't wait until after. Therefore, I was going to have to leave Orealla Thursday night, arrive on the coast Friday morning and go straight into Suriname, and stay until Saturday morning. Then back to the coast until Monday afternoon, at which point I'd have to pray like crazy that a boat would be able to get me back home before 6:30 when the Memorial began.

That's what was supposed to happen, but here's what actually happened...

After praying almost nonstop for three days, I get to the Suriname border Friday morning. While standing in the immigration line, a man yells out "Is anyone going back to Guyana today?"

I raise my hand. "Wait, I can do that?"

He says "Yeah. You needing a visa? You want to go back to Guyana on the next ferry?"

I say "Yes!"

The man, named Herrman, pulls me to the front of the line and lets me get checked through first, at which point he takes me right around to where I could board the ferry back to Guyana, which I had left mere minutes ago.

Herrman. Or possible an angel. Not sure.

So here I find myself on a ferry straight back into Guyana. I was overjoyed, but still cautious about getting back into Guyana. People have had problems before with immigration, so how would they react seeing I had left Guyana only to come straight back and......?!

"How long are you staying for?" asked the woman at Customs.

"Um, I'd like three months."

She stamps my passport, hands it back, and says "Enjoy your stay."

With my newly stamped three month visa, I was back in Guyana, and went straight back to where the Orealla boat was docked, with hours to spare before it went back home.

 In the intervening days, a few other interesting developments happened. For example, the three girls we had here a few weeks back returned to help with the Memorial invitation work, amongst other things, along with Tom Sanches coming down to give our Memorial talk for us. Naturally, we had them all joining us on a second Siparuta trip, which makes it the first time that we've ever been able to work Siparuta twice in one year! It was fantastic, because we had so many people going on this trip we filled up the entire boat. It was jam-packed with people.

This is of course not even showing the front two rows. All told, we had 16 Witnesses rammed into this little boat. Obviously, when you have this many Witnesses stuck together for an hour, it gets really loud. And fun as well. Time flew by.

After getting to the village, we split up into groups and set out trying to cover the whole village in a day. It's difficult to estimate how long it'll take anytime we go, since nobody seems to be sure of how many live in the village. Guesses range from 200 to 800. Nonetheless, we got there around 9-ish, but we weren't trying to blitz the territory or anything. Typically we do, since it gets worked so rarely, but since we had been there just a few weeks ago, there was much less pressure, and we were able to take our time and have extensive conversations with people, both about the Memorial and any other topic, really. After several hours of nonstop walking and preaching, we arrived at the conclusion we had finished covering the village. This was the sign it was now time to sit down and eat something, because seriously.

During this point, Tom and I started talking to a woman sitting in the benab with us (basically, a gazebo). As we were talking to her, she acted like she recognized us but couldn't remember from where. Finally we ask her name, and she says "Ruth", at which point Tom and I both shout "Christmas? Ruth Christmas?!"

She says yes, at which point she recognizes us as well. She was the one who had helped us when we first came to Siparuta, almost four years ago.

(Read all about it! Read all about it!

Tom Sanches preaching through lunch, because of course he is.

So that pretty well wrapped up the excitement until the Memorial itself. Which of course went wonderfully.

We did a major overhaul of the seating arrangements so that we could fit everyone who was expected to come. Typically our Kingdom Hall holds around 55, but we were able to arrange things so that we could seat 102.

As I've said before we have quite a serious problem in regard to not having enough qualified brothers in Orealla, so for the Memorial we had Tom Sanches giving the talk for us, while Lennox Johnston and I had to say the prayers for the emblems and then do the passing as well. It took quite a while, as you could probably guess from the amount of chairs you see in the picture (plus considering we had two people passing). But it all went without a hitch, and we had an excellent total of 90 in attendance. Not bad for a congregation of 23. I also think we set a record for highest number of white people at an Orealla Memorial ever.

And of course for the obligatory cute picture, here's a sampling of the kids who were there for the program.
The best thing about this pic is the kids on each end, Naomi and Dinoo. They aren't the children of Witnesses, or even Bible students. They each were contacted in door to door and decided of their own accord to come, without their parents or siblings or anything. Studies have been started with them both.

So that's the news. Maybe now after all this has finished things will slow back down and my life won't be a constant race to get the next thing done.

Ha! Of course it won't. I love it.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

My Day

It seems to be becoming a habit that my blog entries begin with an apology for it being so long without an update, along with a note about the preceding period of time being among the busiest of my life. Only problem is each time I do that, the following week is busier.

This time around, there were two things contributing to my being incredibly busy. One was our sole remaining elder having to go out for a few days. So on Saturday I had to lead out for field service and also take charge of the Kingdom Hall cleaning day, which here is a huge deal. This is everything from normal stuff like sweeping to an almost complete overhaul of the landscaping. The whole congregation shows up for it, and work lasts for hours.

During the workday we received news of the other thing: the daughter of a sister in Orealla had died suddenly. With our elder being gone, this meant the responsibility of organizing the funeral would fall on me. On top of this, the next day (Sunday) I gave the public talk and conducted the Watchtower study. Almost immediately after the meeting ended, I had to get ahold of the family and work out details of the funeral for the deceased sister. They wanted to bring her back to Orealla on Tuesday and have the funeral that same day.

Monday was thus spent writing a funeral talk and figuring out where all the family and out of town visitors were going to stay. That afternoon most of the guests arrived, and amazingly I only had one person who had to stay with me. It was a brother named Jason who had come here many times before to visit Kojo, so he knew the house well. Fortunately amongst the people coming in was our elder returning, and he had heard of what all was happening. Additionally, he had gotten his father to come back with him to deliver the funeral talk, as he had been a friend of the family for decades. So that was something off my shoulders.

Which brings us to the titular "My Day", Tuesday....

My day began with a banging on the door. As I stumble over to the door, I notice the clock reads 6:30 am. It's a local brother, who informs me many men in the village are getting wheelbarrows of sand to put all down the family's road to absorb the mud (which is an incredibly nice thing to do, considering how long that path is). Apparently they need more wheelbarrows and shovels, so I lend ours. I go back to bed.

I'm awoken once more by banging on the door. Another local brother is there saying he wants to rake the yard. It's like, yeah you can. I'm not stopping someone from doing my yard work. I decide sleep is hopeless by this point, and start making breakfast.

Almost immediately, there's banging on the door. Two local sisters are there asking if we can take the spare Kingdom Hall chairs to the family's house. Unfortunately, they're not yet done with the sand, so it's still so muddy the only way to walk it is to go barefoot. I take all 48 chairs to Hendricks' (the name of the family). Walking this path barefoot leads to considerable amounts of blood, sweat, and mud.

I get back home. Banging on the door again. An in-law of the Hendricks family is asking what we can use for music at the burial site. I shoo him away in the direction of someone who knows something. I decide to sit and relax until the funeral starts.

Banging on the door. The funeral is starting in three minutes and holy cow why are you not ready didn't anyone tell you you're chairman oh my heavens Josh you need to get ready RIGHT NOW!
So I cobble together a half decent outfit to wear and be chairman for the funeral. When the talk is all done, they set out to carry the coffin to the burial site, which is located in the uphill portion of the village. Unfortunately, the get there you must traverse Big Momma Hill (no joke, that's totally what it's called).


Finally the funeral is over. I hike back home and peel off my socks and take a shower. Banging on the door. At this point it's dark so I can't see the face. I ask who it is. The shadowy figure happily explains "It's Alonso!"
"Who?" I reply "And whaddya want?"
"I'm the deceased's husband. I just wanted to talk with somebody for a while."
At this point I'm ashamed, and begrudgingly talk with him for a while until he leaves.

I go inside and realize I never did eat breakfast, and it's now dark, so I set about making dinner. Banging on the door. I storm downstairs and open the door, where there's three people asking if I've seen Alonso. "Yeah, he just left. No idea where he went." They leave, I go back upstairs to resume making food.

Banging on the door. I open up and see Romano, whom you may remember was the brother I stayed with when I gave a talk in Apoera, the village in Suriname. "Good night Josh! Excuse me, I need the toilet!!" He barges in quickly and runs to the bathroom. Upon coming out, he explains he's on the river, and must urgently continue on, and thus leaves.

I go back upstairs and give up any hope of tasting food today. Instead, I begin searching for something to watch before I go to bed.

Two minutes later.....?

Banging on the door! I go down, open the door, and see Alonso carrying all his luggage. "I COME FOR SLEEP NOW!" He proceeds to Dustin's old room and passes out on the bed.

So basically, half the day was really depressing, and the other half was so cartoonishly bizarre I had a difficult time not laughing at what was happening.

Which brings us to today. Due to how busy the beginning of the week was, I now have a few hours in which to prepare my three meeting parts for tonight. So naturally, perfect time to write a blog update!

(kidding, already done writing my parts. Calm thyself....)

Thursday, March 20, 2014

2014 Circuit Assembly (#BWOOL)

Apologies for it being two weeks since the last blog post, but those two weeks have been among the busiest of my life. Here's a brief overview in pictures of what has been going on.

Hiking to the savanna to explore/watch sunset/get lost

Learning how to boil the cyanide out of cassava

Bubblegum bubble blowing contest

Fishing in the Courantyne river

Making dinner out of said fish

Circuit Pioneer Meeting

Settlers of Catan night

And of course, Circuit Assembly

So, now that we've gotten an overview, let's go through the specifics shall we?

This past week, it came to the attention of Brother Johnston and I that we had two people in our congregation who were leaving soon (Dustin Reynolds and Zandile) but who had not had a chance yet to preach in Siparuta, which in case I haven't specified before, is part of our assigned territory, but we can rarely get to it.
Around this same time, Micaiah and Jessica had two sisters from Ohio visiting them who expressed interest in visiting the interior, so we looked into having them along for the preaching trip.

Thus, it seemed we had a perfect setup for getting to Siparuta. Enough people to pay for the boat, the gas, etc, and also enough people to be able to cover the entire village of 800+ people in a single day. It took a while to put together, along with a small handful of delays and cancellations and switching the boats, but finally we had all the pieces in place.

When all was said and done, we had two Amerindian brothers (Dolan France and Rahoul Alpin), Dustin Reynolds, Zandile, the two sisters from Ohio (Olivia DuBois and Melanie Wilson, who are also the ones who brought me the phone that allows me to use internet here), a sister from England I had never met before named something that sounds like Charismatic, and then me.

The batch of three girls arrived early that morning (like, 1AM). We shipped them off to the places where they would be staying for the weekend, then ran back home to get what little sleep we could to get ready for later that day. Thus, 7:30 that morning, we were ready. We packed up our literature and headed out.

Oh wait, silly me. The boat was broken down.

We had to wait a while as they fixed the boat up, but that did give us time to take lots of group pictures.
 On the left is Rahoul. I just realized this is the only picture I have of him. Alas.

And the rest of the group, minus Dustin. L-R: Olivia, Zandile, me, Charismatic, Melanie, and Dolan.

Aside from the boat breaking, the plan went off without a hitch. You know, once we got to Siparuta. We split into four groups and covered the entire village in one go. Between us I believe we had the equivalent of about three boxes of literature, and it was almost completely gone by the end of the day.
Actually, we finished around 3:30 in the afternoon, so we managed a total blitz of the place. It went so well we're making plans to go back for the Memorial campaign.

The rest of the week was pretty much the silliness outlined at the beginning, at least until the Circuit Assembly came.

Which, I must say, was icing on the cake for an incredible week. After having been away from Guyana for two years (whoa.... two years? How can that be right?) it was weird suddenly jumping straight back into a Circuit Pioneer meeting, and immediately being surrounded by friends whom I hadn't seen in such a long time. I'm pretty sure I was hyperventilating from joy at one point...

Of course, I also got to stay with Mike and Lara Alston during the weekend, who are the ones that got me here in the first place, so that was awesome. Weirdest thing about that was that the last time I saw them, I was in the United States. Super weird.

Also saw some other old friends, plus new ones (I know y'all are reading this, so Hi!), but that's another story for another time.

And I must say, it was an amazing assembly. I don't like divulging details of assembly parts on the blog, if nothing else so I don't spoil it for everyone else, but ever spend an entire assembly (or more specifically, the pioneer meeting) feeling like it was written just for you?

Of course you do. Why'd I even bother asking?

Naturally though, the busy week was far from over. Monday was a Hindu holiday called Phagwah (or Holi, or the Festival of Colors), which essentially comprises of people running around spraying dye all over each other. I stayed inside most of the day at Micaiah's house, and thus was spared.


The bus ride home.

Then my busy week was almost over. The final hurdle came in the form of the boats not running on Monday because of the holiday, so I didn't leave the coast for Orealla until late Tuesday. The problem there is that our meeting is Wednesday, so come that morning Brother Johnston and I had to write the entire meeting for that night.

I'm not even joking about the "whole meeting" thing. From the Congregation Bible Study to the student talks to the Service meeting, everything. In a few hours. So that was rough, but it's amazing what holy spirit can make happen.

So now I'm catching up with stuff (translation: gobs of laundry). As such, I have nothing further to add, beyond a picture of me and the three girls looking sad because the Assembly is over.